It’s a common misconception that in order to make a difference in the world or to have a truly fulfilled life you have to work for yourself.
This isn’t true.
Working for yourself is great: you get to choose your own hours, decide how you want to work and decide what you want to do, but it also involves long hours, and lots of risk and uncertainty.
I work with many female founders as well as corporate executives and I see both sides of the coin.
Lots of people who start their own businesses and have a clear idea of the difference they want to make, can find joy in the little things and find that their mission makes their work not feel like work. You only have to look at social media and the press to hear stories of self-made millionaires citing working for themselves as the best thing they ever did and stories of people changing the world citing being self-employed as the catalyst.
But being self-employed is not for everyone.
You may not be ready, willing or able to give up the security of an income. Or want to be everything in your business and the sole driver of purpose and productivity. It can be lonely; when you don’t have support or back up, worry often stands in the way of purpose.
There is no “right” answer.
It’s really important to look at yourself and your circumstances and decide if entrepreneurship is for you. And remember, you don’t have to go full force from day one: you can have a side hustle, you can negotiate working part time as you set up and test the water. Work flexibility is a hot topic of discussion for employers. I am seeing more conversations taking place and people negotiating working patterns that better fit their lives. Whilst there is still a lot of work to be done, be brave: open up the conversation; have a clear case for how you can make it work; cite facts and statistics to help your case and make it happen.
Is entrepreneurship the only way to effectively use your voice to effect change in the world?
It’s true when you have started a business with purpose and vision, you’re moved to speak passionately about your cause and engage with people around that cause to make the maximum impact. When you work for someone else it may feel like you’re standing up for their cause or a pre-prescribed cause which may not necessarily be your own heart’s work.
But you can absolutely make a difference, and you can use your voice whilst you are employed by someone else. The best way to do this is to ensure that you’re clear on your values and how you want to live. Work with an employer whose values are closely aligned to yours. Where something at work does not add up or you spot things that can be done better, speak up and drive change. Use the support of the bigger machine to support causes outside of your daily work. In taking action for things that matter to you at work and in the wider world you’ll feel more emboldened in your work. Anytime your work matters to you, whatever it is, you know you’re making a positive contribution.
Whether self-employed or employed we have a choice about the impact we want to make.
It’s important not to get caught up in common misconceptions, but to focus on our own situations, how we live sustainably, and what actually makes us tick as individuals. What works for one person will not work for another. It’s important not to make assumptions about other people’s ‘success’ but instead focus on what ‘success’ looks like for us.
When you are very clear about the difference you want to make with your work – whatever form work takes – the most important thing you can do is to set about making it happen!